Google held another Made By Google event today, revealing many new products, most them were leaked well before hand and all of them were at least rumored. Here's my thoughts on everything announced.
Google briefly talked about Stadia, reiterating that it will launch on November 19th. It was only a brief mention, but it was there to remind us that it's coming. To me, Stadia is the culmination of every single piece of restrictions, DRM, online-only games, and more that the industry has been pushing for the last decade. It represents a future where consumers lack any control over their games, and where access to those games is dependent not only on a fast, stable internet connection, but on Stadia continuing to exist. It represents a future where games can be easily taken away from consumers, and where the consumer is always dependent on the provider. Maybe I'm just being pessimistic, who knows. But what I've seen from Stadia makes it hard to be optimistic.
The Google Nest Mini is part upgraded Google Home Mini, and part of Google's continuing efforts to integrate all of it's home products into the Google Nest brand. There isn't really much new about the Nest Mini. The Nest Mini has better speakers, improved touch controls, some new colors, and a hole at the bottom so you can hang it on a hook. It's the same price as the Google Home Mini ($49) and it comes on October 22nd.
Although the Nest Mini itself is a bit boring, Google did use it to talk about general improvements to their smart home ecosystem, and to tout the various commitments that it mentioned at the beginning of the presentation. As part of Google's sustainability push, the Nest Mini's fabric top is made from recycled plastic bottles. Furthermore, for products that use Works With Nest, Google is allowing those products to move to Works With Google Assistant, but is requiring those partners to go through a security review first. Google is also introducing new Works With Google Assistant functionality, such as allowing direct control over Nest devices, after explicit user permission. With this, Google is hoping to simplify and integrate everything into the Nest brand.
This hopefully means a future for the Google Home ecosystem that makes devices, especially third party devices, work better in the future. This feels similar to Amazon's efforts to simplify the Alexa ecosystem, such as creating a simple setup process within the Alexa app, among other programs. I sincerely hope that Google actually follows through with these efforts.
Google is redesigning the Google Wifi and bringing it into the Nest brand with all of their other smart home devices. The new Nest Wifi is totally redesigned, and works more like Amazon's Eero routers, with it working on a router and extender system. Because Google is determined to stuff the Google Assistant into everything, all Nest Wifi points are also Google Assistant smart speakers. Through this and it's design, Google is attempting to get people to put their Wifi routers in the open, and this is their strongest argument for that yet. I hope that there is an option to disable the Google Assistant for people who already have Google Assistant speakers in their home. The Nest Wifi is also supposed to work as a smart home hub, with devices connecting directly to it, and in the future devices using the Thread wireless technology will supposedly work seamlessly with the Nest Wifi for local connections.
Speaking of the Google Home app, it's getting a redesign with what Google's calling the home feed, and will also be able to control the Nest Wifi, effectively merging the Google Home and Google Wifi app.
Google is really going to have to justify the Nest Wifi's price, considering that a 3 pack of Eero routers costs $100 less, at $249 compared to $349 for a 3 pack of 1 Nest Wifi router and 2 Nest Wifi points. (the Eero router 3 pack is not to be confused with a 3 pack of Eero pros which costs $499.)
One of the last Nest/Google Home updates was a update to the Nest Aware subscription tier. Google is redesigning the tiers and pricing to go from a model that is per Nest camera to one that is only one subscription for unlimited cameras. This is a significantly better deal, and the extra $1 a month (making the lowest subscription tier $6 per month instead of $5 per month per camera) is totally worth it, especially now that all cameras get 30 days of video storage with Nest Aware and 60 days with Nest Aware Plus. This makes Nest camera storage significantly less expensive and makes it way less costly to invest in Nest cameras. This is a really positive change and I'm glad Google is doing it.
The Pixelbook Go is a new version of the Pixelbook Chromebook laptop that features a new design and less beefy specs than the normal Pixelbook. It's available starting on October 28th and starts at $649 (but has configurations that go up to $1,399). It's still a bit expensive than the original Pixelbook, but it's finally starting to feel like the pricing is somewhat reasonable.
3 years after the original Pixel Buds, "wireless earbuds" that attempted to be Google's answer to AirPods yet had a cord between them, Google announced a totally redesigned Pixel Buds that are actually wireless earbuds. They feature the Google Assistant (of course), 5 hours of continuous battery life and 24 hours with the charging case, long range Bluetooth (apparently up to a football field away according to Google's claims) and adaptive sound with a vent design at the bottom of the buds to adapt the sound based on the environment you're in. The Pixel Buds cost $179 and despite the new them being announced today, Google says that they won't be available until Spring 2020. It's a shame that they would be available for a while as they actually look pretty exciting. I'm definitely glad that we're finally getting proper Android competitors to AirPods.
Google Pixel 4
Last but not least, the Google Pixel 4 phone. We're pretty much known everything from this Phone due to a multitude of leaks, and now it's finally been officially announced. Gone is the very large (and frankly very ugly) notch, with Google instead having a bezel containing all the front cameras and sensors at the top and a much smaller sensor at the bottom. The Pixel 4 has an 1080p display while the Pixel 4 XL has a Quad HD display, but both feature a 90hz refresh.rate (so glad this is finally becoming more common in flagships). It has a Snapdragon 855 processor, 6GB of ram, and comes in either 64GB or 128GB storage configurations. The Pixel 4 features improved Camera software, and 2 cameras despite Google's statements in the past that 2 cameras are unnecessary as it can do more with just 1 camera. This is in an attempt by Google to get it's "best smartphone camera" crown back after having it chipped away from the likes of Huawei, Samsung, and Apple.
The main selling points however, is the new facial unlock feature, which works very similar to Apple's Face ID (and is not to be confused with previous facial unlocking in past Android phones, which was really just comparing your face. to a photo that your phone has stored) and motion sense, which is the culmination of Google's Project Soli project that we've been waiting years for, enabling gestures to be performed on a Pixel 4 without touching the phone.
Pixel 4 ships globally on October 24 and starts at $799 (or $899 for the Pixel 4 XL). The Pixel 4 is also the first Pixel to be carried by all 4 major US carriers, finally joining the likes of Apple, Samsung, and LG. In the past, Pixel phones gave unlimited original photo storage on Google Photos, however the Pixel 4 only provides 3 months of the 100GB tier of the Google One subscription. Overall I think that the Pixel 4 actually does a really good job of justifying it's own existence and the upgrade from a Pixel 3. The lack of the unlimited original quality Google Photos backup is a major disappointment however.
Overall, I quite liked this Made by Google event, especially in comparison to previous events. Many of the devices that were announced are much stronger choices than before, and for once it kinda feels like Google actually has a vision or at least some sense of direction with these products.